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Where is Bonnie Prince Charlie Buried?

The St. Peter’s Connection
By Frank R. Shaw, FSA Scot, Atlanta, Georgia, USA

When he was born, he was given the names Charles Edward Louis John Casimir Silvester Xavier Maria. He is loved by some and reviled by many for trying to do the impossible. Every time I hear “To Dream The Impossible Dream”, I think of this “rash adventurer.” We are told that his father loved to call him Carluccio, while his Polish mother addressed him as Carluso. To the rest of us, he was known simply as Bonnie Prince Charlie.

So, a long-time dream of mine came true a few weeks ago when I stood in awe before the Monument to the Stuarts at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. I’ve been anticipating this visit since 1994 when I read Rosalind K. Marshall’s excellent book entitled Bonnie Prince Charlie and learned that he was buried in St. Peter’s Basilica. Having read many books about Bonnie Prince Charlie, (there are currently 27 volumes on “Charlie” in my library), studying the ’45 with great interest over the years, visiting many of the places in Scotland concerning that unusual civil war, and walking over the battlefield at Culloden where it all ended for the Stuarts, I long ago came to the conclusion that my studies of Bonnie Prince Charlie would never be complete until I stood before that tomb in St. Peter’s.

The last of the three Royal Stuarts are buried here, the Old and New Pretender, father and son, kings in their own right, as well as Cardinal York, Charlie’s younger brother Henry, who turned to the church instead of the battlefield. After years of harsh differences between the three men, the family tug-of-war is finally over, and they find themselves united in this monument. What life could not unite, as is true in so many families, death could!

In preparation for our trip to Italy, I asked Raymond Campbell Paterson, my friend and talented author of many Scottish books, where in St. Peter’s I would find the Stuart monument. His return email stated, “As you pass through the (main) entrance of Saint Peter’s in Rome, take a sharp left along to the corner and then a sharp right-and there, just in front of you, is the Stuart monument.” Interestingly, he went on to say that an Austrian Jacobite friend of his…“who once tried to lay some flowers (at the monument), was immediately pounced (upon) by Vatican security guards, concerned about bombs.”

Not being artistically talented, it is difficult for me to describe this impressive Stuart Monument. There are portrait busts in profile of the father and two sons. The Old Pretender is placed between his two sons. Cardinal York is one the left side with Bonnie Prince Charlie on the right. I do not know if there is symbolism here or not. The father and the Cardinal are facing each other. The King’s back is to Bonnie Prince Charlie.

Again, I have no idea if there is some hidden meaning in this or not. I do know that when Bonnie Prince Charlie left Rome for Scotland, he never saw his father alive again. It is almost as if Charlie was desperate to win his father’s approval and, to do so, he was possessed by an obsession to take back what belonged to his father, the throne of England. He came close, but he was not playing horseshoes. Henry, the younger son, remained in Rome and other parts of Italy throughout his lifetime and spent much time with his father until his death. Evidently he was his father’s favorite, as evidenced by a comment to a friend, “I really am in love with the little Duke, he is the finest child that can be seen.” Some historians say their personalities were very much alike. They were to remain close while Charlie and his father were estranged over the years.

At the top of the monument, you will find two lions rampant, and below the busts are two lovely mourning angels with bowed heads leaning on two upside-down torches that they are about to extinguish. A door between the two angels is inscribed with these words from the Bible: “Blessed are those who die in the Lord.” I imagine some people on opposite sides of the conflict during the ’45 would disagree with this sentiment.                                

Much to my pleasure, there on the wall opposite the Stuart monument is a tribute to the wife and mother of these three men, Maria Clementina Sobieska, niece of King John II of Poland. She is portrayed in medallion form that is held by a cherub and by a statue of Charity. Under this tribute to her is an exit from the dome. It is said that on the Pope’s personal orders, she was given a magnificent funeral.

In describing the Monument to the Stuarts, in his book St. Peter’s, Guide to the Square and the Basilica (translated by Kate Marcelin-Rice), Nicolo Suffi writes, “George III of England covered the expenses of this monument, begun in 1817 and completed in 1821.” Another author summed it up by saying, “These last three Stuarts lie in the crypt of St. Peter’s in Rome, unaware that their marble monument was in part paid for by the Hanoverian George III.” When Cardinal York died, he had styled himself “Henry IX”, but all knew it was an empty title, and he knew it as well. Having lost all his money in the French Revolution with his palace being sacked by the French Army, the British government saw that Henry got to Venice safely. George III sent him a “generous gift of money”. It is said that the good Cardinal York bequeathed the last few British Crown jewels still in Stuart possession to George III’s eldest son. So between these two acts of generosity from the House of Hanover, another reconciliation takes place, that of the House of Stuart and the House of Hanover. Death has a way of solving old animosities and allowing the victors to be generous and magnanimous if they choose.

Heartfelt Tributes to Mac and Dede

As an addendum to this piece, I want to pay tribute to two of the best people I have ever known. Two wonderful friends recently passed away – Furman “Mac” Ammons and Dede Tignor. Both will be missed by a great host of friends. I am a better person today because of these two Scottish friends.

Mac loved his Scottishness almost as much as he did his brother’s North Carolina BBQ. He talked of both a lot, always with the warmest of smiles accompanied by that soft chuckle in his voice. He encouraged me to read more and more of Robert Burns. We visited together many times at meetings of our Atlanta Burns Club, the Atlanta St. Andrew’s Society, The Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem, and at other social events throughout the year.  Write this down about Mac Ammons - he was a gentleman, a good man, and a credit to the Scottish community.

Susan and I were asked to join the Atlanta St. Andrew’s Society by Dede the night we met at the first Tartan Day function at the British Consul’s home. She eagerly volunteered to be one of our sponsors. I can honestly tell you that there was only one Dede. She was that rare, vivacious, gracious lady who never failed to greet you with a beautiful smile, a kind word, and a warm hug, always asking questions about you individually and your family which was her way of reaching out to let you know she loved and cared for you and yours. Many a time I saw her whip out a 3x5 card to write down information about a new friend so she could recall facts about them when they met again. Dede was a teacher, and I’ve always thought how lucky the students were to sit at her feet.  We had many good times together that will never be forgotten.

To the spouses of these two beautiful people, Lore Ammons and Wes Tignor, I know you will cherish the many happy years you had together. How fortunate you were to have had them over the years, as they were to have you. Thanks for sharing a little of each of them with all of us. Our lives are richer with more meaning. We mourn with you and share your grief as much as we are capable of and simply say, “God bless you”. (11-11-03)

Top photo:  Busts of (L-R) Cardinal York, the Old Pretender, and Bonnie Prince Charlie

Left photo:  Monument to the Stuarts at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome paid for by George III

Right photo:  Monument to Maria Clementina Sobieska, mother of Bonnie Prince Charlie and Cardinal York; wife of the Old Pretender

Return to December/January 2004 Index Page  |  Return to Frank Shaw's Page


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